January begins the garden season for me as that is when I start my garden planning. I curl up under a cozy blanket with a mug of tea, my laptop, my stack of garden books, and dream of spring and summer. On reflection I see how much my gardening and painting processes parallel each other, especially this year.
Face the blank canvas
I bought my house fairly recently and there was no landscaping at all and I soon learned an empty landscape is as intimidating as a blank canvas. So many possibilities it becomes overwhelming. Then doubts begin to creep in. Will I be able to create anything worthy? Tweaking is so much easier than starting from scratch. Well, I worked out a plan to start my English cottage garden in the front yard and put a patch of herbs and tomatoes in the back. I began ordering seeds, and bare roots, and supplies.
keep plans flexible
The mild weather early in the season brought out the troublemakers in the area. After much harassment and some petty vandalism and assault I knew I needed to secure my back yard with a privacy fence. This seriously cut into my landscaping budget. I didn’t feel comfortable planting my tender young plants in the front either and my whole garden plan was scrapped, just as the nursery orders started coming in. I had dug up the only little patch of grass in the back for the herb garden. The rest is a gravel lot. Moving everything back there in time for spring planting (my kitchen is being overtaken by seedlings) was going to take some creativity.
I realized this is not unlike the start of a painting. I need to make a plan for the painting before I begin pouring so I know which colors to pour and where to pour them. After the pour the painting takes on a life of its own. Sometimes the pour goes badly. Sometimes wonderful and unexpected things happen. Either way, my initial plan is often rendered completely useless by the time I finish pouring paint. Sometimes I just follow the colors and patterns and create a new plan. Sometimes I just need to make adjustment. What is constant is the need to remain flexible and responsive and believe in my creativity; work with the circumstances and not try to control them too much. This applies to my garden as well.
stand back and contemplate the possibilities
The only other possible place for garden beds was behind the back porch and I was planning to crazy pave it with the rubble from the fence installation. Add a sun shade and I’d have a summer home for my houseplants. I spent a lot of time just looking out my windows at the mess in my yard imagining different solutions. Much the way I sit and look at a painting imaging different ways to fix it.
When a bold move is needed take the risk
While looking out the window I could also see a stack of concrete blocks that had been in my neighbor’s yard for years. I plucked up the courage to ask if there were any plans for them and offered to move them off her property for her. It was quite an effort to get them back to my yard, but worth it. With them I’ve built 2 raised beds leaving the beds bordering the path from the gate for the bushes, grasses, and flowers initially slated for the front walk borders. I just need to order organic soil for my raised beds and next month will be able to continue with my original plans for a shady, crazy paved, summer spot for houseplants.
Unfortunately, I deleted my ‘in progress’ photos of paintings, once they were complete. I wish I could show you some of the real messes that turned out to be pretty nice paintings. Sometimes, OK often, everything goes wrong. Paintings don’t go according to plan and revised plans bite the dust as well. Usually what is needed is to take a risk, do something I’ve been telling myself I couldn’t do. A bold move is what is needed to move the process forward.; just like asking the neighbor for the concrete blocks.
input from others can help
Input from others can turn an idea around or at least recharge my battery. Sometimes it comes from a discussion with another artist, sometimes a podcast; the sources of renewed inspiration are many. Like a recent evening when I answered my front door to find a neighbor standing there with part of a lilac bush. His was dividing plants in his garden and brought me part of a lilac that had gotten too big. I was able to get some small plants off the roots, but that blooming lilac – when everything else is still shoots and seedlings – made my mess begin to look like a garden, gave it structure, and really lifted my spirits and re-energized my efforts.
My floral series kept stalling for various reasons. Basically, nothing was going according to plans. I watched a video this week about painting contemporary florals that helped clarify things that were stirring in me but I couldn’t articulate. Although our styles are very different, this artist articulated them beautifully and it was like the lilac in the garden. It gave me structure, lifted my spirits, and re-energized my efforts. I’m moving forward, again but fully expect to change direction soon. That’s what keeps the journey interesting.